Adrian Piper is a performance artist whose work revolves on breaking social structures and hierarchies, and diminishing the divide between the self and the other. She aims to make the invisible, visible through her work. “Calling Card” was one performance in particular where she wanted to confront people who made racist comments. Identifying as an African American, she would feel offended and so would distribute a calling card rather than make a scene.
Rather than write a calling card, Simon Wilkes and I decided to try merging Piper’s calling card with her “Everything” series. We each picked something to write on our foreheads with paint makers (henna unfortunately didn’t work).
Piper’s “Everything” series, which began in 2003, was about questioning what it is that drives them. This became a global phenomenon where people from all around the world would participate. They would write “Everything will be taken away” on their foreheads with henna ink. Participants would keep journals of people’s reactions.
It’s so interesting to see how people respond. Some attempt to try to read what the words on my forehead, others take out their phones on my suggestion that if they take a selfie with me they can read what it says. Some ignore and others stare. I become very aware of the sense of being stared at. The text just becomes a part of me, as I would sometimes even forget that I had written it on.